May 6, 2014

A Woolf-worthy pumpkin chocolate loaf

Elizabeth rather wondered whether Miss Kilman could be hungry. It was her way of eating, eating with intensity, then looking, again and again, at a plate of sugared cakes on the table next them; then, when a lady and a child sat down and the child took the cake, could Miss Kilman really mind it? Yes, Miss Kilman did mind it. She had wanted that cake—the pink one. The pleasure of eating was almost the only pure pleasure left her, and then to be baffled even in that!
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf was right about one thing: Eating is a pure pleasure. But as much as I love food, I have to argue that if eating is the only pure pleasure we have in our lives, then it becomes a problem. There's got to be more to life than just eating.

It always makes me a little (actually, very) sad to read something and suddenly remember that its author decided to take his or her own life. I feel that way every time I read a Virginia Woolf novel, and also whenever I read David Foster Wallace's commencement speech. Strangely enough, I don't feel that way when reading Hemingway—there's something about his work that makes it seem like it's not really a surprise that he did something like that.

Such wisdom and such talent, gone just like that. The eerie thing about reading Wallace's speech is that he describes the mundane aspects of adult life to a crystal clear T. You can't help but wonder why he didn't take his own advice and try to rise above the awful boring routine life and try to "stay conscious and alive in the adult world." To be fair, he does say that it is "unimaginably hard to do this," but still. It's depressing.

While all of us are trying to carve out some uncertain meaning in our lives, one thing remains certain: We must eat. And if we must eat, then it might as well be a pleasurable experience. Am I right or am I right?

I decided to make a lovely pumpkin loaf even though it's spring, not fall, and this is traditionally a fall flavor. Pumpkins deserve to shine in the spotlight beyond the months of October to December. While I was making this pumpkin loaf, I experienced a moment of hesitation when it came time to contemplate the eternal question: To add chocolate chips, or not to add chocolate chips? Usually the answer is yes, because I'm a chocoholic.

Something magical happens to chocolate chips in a moist loaf like this (something that doesn't necessarily happen in cookies): The chocolate morphs into something delightfully velvety and adds just the right soft chunky texture to the loaf. I used Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips (yum). On a scale of zero interest to pure pleasure, this is definitely as pleasurable as food gets. I just know you're gonna Woolf it down (please excuse my cheesy pun).

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Loaf
Wet ingredients
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 eggs
scant 1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
Dry ingredients
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 °F. Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Pour into a buttered 9"x5"x3" loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.